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Camp questions: Offensive line

By mrasor Published: August 3, 2007

The situation: The coach with the most difficult job this spring might be Brian Callahan, who instructs the offensive line. He will attempt to establish chemistry within a group of young linemen who have never worked together. Having watched six years of the Browns' annual swiss cheese line, I can tell you the cohesiveness and coaching is more important on the offensive line than any other position.
In 2005, Akron's line looked to be in rebuilding mode. Yet the players worked together to keep Luke Getsy vertical. Last season, missed assignments on blitzes left the Zips quarterback to be an infant in front of a locomotive. Callahan's specialty has been as a run coordinator, and he does a fine job at that. His challenge will be to get his linemen to avoid a repeat of 2006, where opponents sacked Getsy 31 times, fourth-most in the MAC. That goes doubly with a new quarterback, whether it be Carlton Jackson, Chris Jacquemain or Sean Hakes.
The question: Although the Zips have talent at offensive line, will they protect a new quarterback?
Discussion: That's right, there is talent. Chris Kemme, an All-MAC selection in 2006, appears headed to the pros. Newcomers Casey Estrada (junior college) and Paul Simkovich are three-star players, according to Keith Huebner and Mike Ward are coaches' favorites who could emerge like Kemme. Jim Holley and Mike Schepp provide experience and possibly leadership.
A combination of Simkovich, Ward and Schepp will play most snaps at guard. Holley probably will man the center position. With Huebner and Kemme at tackle, the blind-side hits on the quarterback shouldn't be a problem. Like I said, though, the real question is whether they all can work together to avoid missed assignments on blitzes.
Prediction: Of all the "camp questions," this is most difficult to assess. Run blocking should not be a problem, especially considering the progress made during the spring. Pass blocking should develop as the season progresses. It helps to play Army -- the nation's worst team according to CFN -- the first week of the season. The Black Knights' defense logged only 11 sacks all of last season, so the Patriot Bowl should give the Zips coaches a good check-up before a true test at Ohio State.
In regards to pass blocking, all the line needs to do is be average. I think, in time, that will be guaranteed (if there is such a thing in discussing Akron's offensive line).

    Some notes...
    The MAC's Web site is featuring a story about InfoCision Stadium. This should become a national story when Kentucky visits on Sept. 12, 2009. Too bad Mack Rhoades couldn't afford to bring in a school like Texas to christen the new pad, like Central Florida will this season.
    The Buchtelite's Adam Ferrise wrote a good story about the stadium, including a fascinating quote from Ted Curtis about the eminent domain proceedings. Curtis said business owners "are not listening up." As an aside, giving up my hard-earned business -- even for such a glorious piece of the community as the stadium will be -- would not be very palatable. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I happen to be friends with one of the owners.
    J.D. Brookhart told me this week that he intends to open most practices to the media beginning Monday. If you remember, the team was incredibly stingy last season. They posted signs around Schrank Field telling onlookers to scram. The reason ended up being legitimate. Someone from Penn State was seen moseying about the premises. Anyhow, I intend to report from camp as much as possible, although my first law school class starts Monday. (Yeah, I'm sweating just thinking about it.)

Men's soccer is calling Akron's recruiting class the No. 5 group in the nation -- one that could end up as the No. 1 overall.
That makes two outstanding classes for Caleb Porter. Hopefully the team won't rely on one player for scoring as the burden on Sinisa Ubiparipovic was too great for the Zips to repeat as MAC champs.
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